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Rosemary Nelson (4 September 1958 – 15 March 1999) was a prominent Irish Human Rights Lawyer.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]



Nelson, née Magee, obtained her law degree at Queens University, Belfast (QUB). She worked with other solicitors for a number of years before opening her own practice. Nelson represented clients in a number of high profile cases (including Michéal Caraher, the South Armagh Sniper, as well as a republican paramilitary accused of killing two Royal Ulster Constabulary officers). She also represented the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition in nearby Portadown in the long-running Drumcree conflict against the Orange Order and RUC.


Nelson claimed that she had received death threats from members of the RUC as a result of her defence work. Many of her clients claimed that RUC officers had threatened her through them several times. In 1998, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Param Curamaswamy, noted these threats in his annual report, and stated in a television interview that he believed her life could be in danger. He made recommendations to the British government concerning threats from police against lawyers, which were not acted upon. Later that year, Nelson testified before a committee of the United States Congress investigating human rights in Northern Ireland, confirming that death threats had been made against her and her three children.[15]

Nelson was killed, at the age of 40, by a car bomb outside her home in Lurgan, County Armagh, in 1999. A loyalist paramilitary group calling itself the Red Hand Defenders claimed responsibility for the killing.[16] She is survived by her widower and their three children.


In 2004, the Cory Collusion Inquiry recommended that the UK Government hold an inquiry into the circumstances of Nelson's death.

The resulting inquiry into her murder opened at the Craigavon Civic Centre, Craigavon, County Armagh, in April 2005.[17] In September 2006 the British Security Service MI5 announced it would be represented at the inquiry. This move provoked criticism from Nelson's family, who reportedly expressed concerns that MI5 would remove sensitive or classified information.[18]

See also


  1. ^ The Guardian
  2. ^ US house of Representatives
  3. ^ Human Rights First report
  4. ^
  5. ^ Six different Human Rights organisations
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Relatives for Justice
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ UNHCR press release UNHCHR
  16. ^ BBC News report March 1999
  17. ^ BBC News report on inquiry
  18. ^ BBC News report September 2006 on MI5 involvement in Nelson murder inquiry

External links



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